Best pet insurance providers, per consumer experts

Consumer Reports’ first-ever ratings of pet insurers can help you decide whether buying coverage makes financial sense, or can provide peace of mind

When asked if he’s a dog or a cat person, a Consumer Reports investigative reporter, Brian Vines answered “both.” He’s the proud papa of a dog named Logo and a cat named Phoebe, who recently had an injury. Both his animals are uninsured.

For Vines and his family, pet insurance has long been on the maybe-we-should-look-into-it list, along with getting faster internet or lower-interest-rate credit cards. But his lassitude was called into question early one evening when Phoebe showed up at the back door disoriented, limping, and with a nickel-sized bald spot on her left hind quarter. Vines was concerned about Phoebe, but also worried things were about to get expensive. He didn’t have pet insurance, so getting treatment for Phoebe would be entirely out-of-pocket.

Turns out most of the roughly 65 million U.S. households with a dog and 46 million with a cat don’t insure them, either; just 4.8 million cats and dogs are insured in this country. In a first-ever evaluation for Consumer Reports, we rated eight pet insurance providers—ASPCA, Banfield, Embrace, Fetch, Healthy Paws, Nationwide Pet Insurance, Pets Best, and Trupanion—based on a survey of 2,061 Consumer Reports members with insured pets, looking at things such as how much the premium cost, the claims process, and whether people had choice in which vets to see.

Consumer Reports found that most people weren’t that satisfied with their pet insurance. Six of the insurance providers earned just a midrange overall satisfaction score, and two bottomed out with unfavorable ratings. The overall satisfaction scores, out of 100 for complete satisfaction, are listed below:

  • 55 - Pets Best
  • 52 - Embrance
  • 52 - Trupanion
  • 51 - Healthy Paws
  • 43 - ASPCA
  • 42 - Nationwide Pet Insurance
  • 38 - Fetch
  • 35 - Banfield

If you’re considering pet insurance, there are some things you should know:

- Preexisting conditions are usually not covered.

- There are usually annual caps. If you hit that limit, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket.

- You may be responsible for paying the provider directly and then filing for reimbursement with the insurance company.

So is pet insurance worth it? If you’re looking for a return on investment, maybe not so much.

But if you value peace of mind, it may be something you want to pursue.

Another option is telehealth, or virtual care, which is what Vines used. He got instructions on how to clean the wound and a prescription for antibiotics that was delivered right to his door. And Phoebe healed just fine.

Another option is to bring your pet to an accredited veterinary medical college, which may be able to offer discounts on everything from routine care to spaying and neutering.

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